(ANSA) – DILI, MAR 19 – Sixteen candidates, including two heroes of the revolution such as the outgoing president Francisco Guterres and the Nobel Peace Prize winner and former independent president Josè Ramos-Horta, are in contention for the presidential elections, held today in East Timor. The small state, the youngest in Southeast Asia, is in the throes of a political impasse and the hope is that today’s vote will bring the country back on the path of development and reform.
Already hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, East Timor last year suffered the devastating impact of cyclone Seroja, which in addition to killing at least 40 people, destroyed entire inhabited areas, leaving only mud and uprooted trees. Political life in the last four years of the legislature has suffered from the growing tension between the two major rival parties, President Guterres’ Revolutionary Front for Independent East Timor (Fretilin) The National Congress for Reconstruction (CNRT), which has created a political stalemate which also blocked the launch of the budget law.
There were 860,000 registered voters – East Timor has only one million and 125,000 inhabitants – spread over 1,500 seats. The polls were opened at 07.00 local time (11.00 pm yesterday in Italy), when lines at the polling stations had already formed in the capital Dili and in other places, and closed at 15.00 (7.00 Italian time). The first projections are expected within today, but the final results will be known in a few days.
If no candidate exceeds the absolute majority, the ballot between the two most voted candidates in the first round will be voted on May 20, which will coincide with the 20th anniversary of national independence, obtained in 2002 after 24 years of bloody occupation by of Indonesia. (HANDLE).
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